It’s always dark when the dogs wake me in the morning, and switching to Daylight Savings Time hasn’t changed anything. I’m not ready to rise, but dogs are creatures of habit and need to get moving in the morning.
I have a few minutes between when they shake themselves awake and make their way to the front door. I use the time to turn on my phone flashlight, pull on my slip-on sneakers and zip up my jacket, because it’s always coldest before the dawn. Check the pockets for poop bags. Clip the leashes onto their collars—this usually takes me a few tries, because my fingers are not yet awake—clasp both leashes with my left hand so I can turn the deadbolt and door handle with my right.
They drag me down the porch steps, bolting like racehorses leaving the gate. I glance under the bushes along the walkway, to see if the newspaper has been delivered, and then over my right shoulder as we hang a sharp left down the street. My mind is not entirely awake, but I store the sight of the blue bag in my working memory so I can grab it on the way in. I also register relief upon seeing it, because I won’t have to keep as tight a rein on the dogs to avoid the delivery truck—an actual pickup truck—barreling through the neighborhood.
Luna is happy to go anywhere, just happy to be outside, unless it’s raining. She leads us down the hill and stops next to a patch of ivy. Willow waits like a statue, and then trots alongside her as we head around the block. We arrive under the magnolia on the large stretch of pine straw at the corner and I test my voice, quietly repeating the command “hurry up” to Willow, who requires encouragement.
I look up while she sniffs along the path, stopping periodically to find the perfect spot. On a clear morning, I see Orion’s Belt resting low in the sky, over the row of townhouses on the western edge of the neighborhood. As we round the next corner, I lift my gaze higher to see if Venus is visible. It’s really quite dark and there are not many streetlights, so I should be able to see the stars, but I notice that everything is a bit blurry. I’ve forgotten my glasses again.
The journey around the block takes about five minutes. I stop to pick up the newspaper and, once we’re inside, I easily unhook the leashes from the dogs’ collars. They take off happily into the kitchen and wait to be fed.
Now that my feet and knees and hips are loose, it’s time to wake up my hands. My left thumb is still swollen and recovering from the fracture; all of my fingers are slightly stiff in the morning. I brew a cup of coffee and warm my fingers around the mug. Soon I’ll begin the next set of morning exercises, but first I want to savor the near-silence as the sun rises, slowly, and the dogs, snoring softly, drift back to sleep.